The big knock against the Big East Conference in terms of realignment is that they lacked the proactive nature that was required by a conference in their position. The lack of foresight to keep expanding back in 2004 or to preempt any defections by locking up new members beforehand.
Of course, it's easy to say that's all Monday Morning Quarterbacking, but, it's true.
If the Big East is one on end of the conference realignment spectrum, the side that represents old, stodgy thinking and a lack of gumption, then the Big Ten Conference is all the way on the other side. Throughout the entire process, the Big Ten has the been the conference with the balls to make the first move. Their decisions might not have been popular and geographically sound (Maryland is going to be weird for years to come), but they've been smart, ahead of the curve and proactive.
Right smack dab in the middle of that spectrum lies the ACC, which is proactive enough to survive but not forward-thinking enough to rise to the top of the pile.
Today's announcement is a perfect example.
By adding the Louisville Cardinals, the ACC makes a smart decision to secure it's 14-school membership with a solid all-around athletics program that's currently finding success on the football and basketball fields. What Louisville lacks in academic standing and market share, they more than make up for in relevancy. And by choosing Louisville over UConn, they keep the Florida States and Clemsons (who happen to be Florida State and Clemson) of the conference happy.
If this were six months ago, the ACC probably would have added the UConn Huskies, with their academic prestige, basketball tradition and links to Hartford and NYC. But in those six months, the game changed. It became less about finding schools that fit a mold and more about finding relevant schools that secure on-field success. UConn had the misfortune of fading on the football field at the worst possible time.
However, the reason today's announcement also signals a lean towards the Big East way of thinking is the conference's determination to remain a 14-school league. The Big Ten is still 14 teams and so is the SEC, so the ACC might as well stay there as well, right?
If that's their reasoning, then it's wrong. And I'm not saying that the ACC had to take on two other new members right here and now, because I'm not sure there are two quality choices out there, but to close that door so publicly and matter-of-factly is the kind of inactive thinking that doomed the Big East.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 think in terms of five years down the road. The ACC thinks in terms of whether or not it measures up right now. One of those ways of thinking is more likely to survive in the current world of college athletics.
Over at Card Chronicle, Mike started his post-announcement article with "It's over." While I can certainly understand appreciate that sentiment, I have to think that it remains slightly premature. So long as the ACC straddles the line between Big Ten-thinking and Big East-thinking, the danger of losing Florida State and Georgia Tech and replacing them with Tulane and UCF remains alive.